28 – 29 July: Haunted castles and rainy days

Author: Mrs A

Location: Moosham Castle, Unternberg and Altenmarkt im Pongau, Austria

As we departed from Murau the cloud dropped, hiding all the views we had enjoyed over the past couple of days. Along with the cloud, the rain soon started, and instead of temperatures in the mid 20s, the day struggled to top out at 18°C. This is the coolest weather we have had since the east coast of Italy, back in May.

We drove east about 40 minutes, pulling up at a castle I had read about – Castle Moosham (Schloss Moosham).

Looking grand up on the hillside
Built in the 1100s, Castle Moosham sits high up on a hill
Truffy’s first visit to a castle

The castle had exchanged hands many times over its 900 year lifespan, and was purchased by Count Hans Nepomuk Wilczek in 1886. He was a great collector of antiques, and made it his life’s work to restore the building and to furnish it as a museum. He was an important figure in Austrian history, a researcher funding expeditions to the North Pole among other achievements. He built another castle near Vienna, Kreuzenstein Castle, in order to house his art collection in the 1800s.

His grandson Alexander was the tour guide for my visit (which I enjoyed while Mark chilled out with a cuppa soup and a good book!). His father (Count Hans Heinrich Wilczek) spent much of his childhood growing up in this castle, and now owns this and the castle near Vienna. Our guide lives in another castle nearby…hah we have our camper, who needs a castle?

I was not allowed to take photos inside, which was full of antiques, artwork and collectables from as far back as the 15th century. Alexander was particularly proud of portraits of famous Austrians such as Mozart, as well as extensive collections of suits of armour, weapons, prints and ancient texts in a library.

A fifty metre deep well is the centrepiece to the castle courtyard

This castle has featured in a number of documentaries, boasting to be one of the most haunted castles in all of Europe. It certainly has a gruesome history to go with it.

The history dates back to Roman settlement, where a fort was built at this location. There are a few relics left from Roman times – bits of pillar here and there, stones reused in walls, a tombstone encompassed into a wall.

During a period of 228 years ( between 1534 and 1762) , this castle was the location of 66 executions, of which 44 were attributed to persons accused of sorcery and witchcraft. The dungeons were cold and dark, and full of torture implements – collected from the world over as well as Austrian.

You can almost imagine having to await trial in these cages, terrified for your fate

Tour over, I rejoined Mr A and we continued to our next destination, Altenmarkt im Pongau. About 70km south of Salzburg, it was a random selection on the map, with somewhere to camp which had space! There are many places we have been recommended, but with overflowing campgrounds, bad reviews, and a minimum of three or four nights’ booking, we chose to avoid them this time. The issue with travelling in peak season, I guess.

The rain closed in, and we bunkered down for the afternoon, enjoying the cooler temperatures and an excuse to not do anything for once!

Monday morning dawned drizzling and grey, so we set about trying to find some storage for Truffy between November and March when we’ll be heading to Australia. It seems every single place in the south-east of England (we’re talking Brighton to Milton Keynes here, so quite a big chunk of country!) is fully booked out! One place said they had one space for us, but we would have to start paying the monthly fee immediately to secure it.

Feeling dejected, we put on our rain coats and decided to walk into town for some fresh air.

The cloud hanging low over the hills…it’s hard to believe this is a ski resort!

We got into town at midday, just as most of the shops were closing for a two plus hour break! The town was busy with people walking around, trying door handles, clearly with money burning a hole in their pockets, but unable to spend it.

The Roman Catholic Church, Maria Gebert can be seen for miles, particularly the golden cross on top of the spire
Cloisters opposite the church offer a peaceful respite from the rain

We enjoyed a hot chocolate in a local cafe, before having an amble around some of the shops which opened earlier than others. The early bird catches the worm as they say, and those shops which decided not to close, or opened sooner than others got our valuable euros.

The town predominantly lives for the winter season, servicing the Ski Amade ski area. Many of the shops sell hiking and skiing gear – Mr A’s favourite stores – he left with two tee-shirts and a pair of shorts. A successful visit!

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